Several big names in philanthropy, a few who've been in the international spotlight, got their start right here in San Diego
ARTS (A Reason to Survive), Invisible Children, Keep A Breast Foundation, Nika Water, Surfrider Foundation and The Paradigm Project — they all do good, and they all do it from headquarters in America's Finest.
But that's not all they have in common.
Hailing from Boston, college buddies Scot Chisholm and Pat Walsh are the dynamic duo behind StayClassy.org, an online platform that enables nonprofits to fundraise online and increase their impact on a grand scale. In 2006, they launched their company in a Mission Beach apartment. Today, they are leaders in their field and were recently named among "America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs" by Bloomberg Businessweek.
"We founded StayClassy because we saw a lack of young people getting involved with nonprofits," says Chisholm. "By using our software, organizations are engaging younger audiences, simplifying their fundraising processes and becoming more efficient overall."
To expose the world to the accomplishments of their clients and other nonprofits, Chisholm and Walsh created the Classy Awards, which has grown from a small San Diego event to the largest philanthropic awards show in the United States.
"There was a huge opportunity to establish an event that brings nonprofit leaders and innovators from around the world together to celebrate the industry's great achievements," says Walsh. "The CLASSYs turn our San Diego community into the national hub for recognizing social impact, which is awesome for the city."
The fourth annual event takes place downtown on September 21 and 22. More than 3,000 do-gooders, including celebrities, nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs are expected to attend.
And the winner is: the tens of thousands of people benefiting from the funds and awareness raised under the StayClassy umbrella.
Cooking up a new solution to an ancient problem
For Gregory Spencer Jr., it started with a chicken.
During a trip to Uganda, Spencer spent time with the family of a child he'd sponsored through a charity. To welcome him, they gave him a chicken.
It's a nice gesture in any country, but Spencer could see that the only thing this family had was a pair of chickens. And they gave one of them to him.
"It was the equivalent of giving someone you just met one of your two cars," he says. And in that instant, he realized, "There's gotta be more that I can give."
Spencer teamed up with his father, Greg Sr., and his father's colleague, Neil Bellefeuille, to form The Paradigm Project. The goal: to distribute 5,000,000 stoves by 2020.
Three billion people in the developing world still cook their food over an open fire, an inefficient use of fuel that leads to significant smoke inhalation (by some estimates, the equivalent of four packs of cigarettes a day) by those who spend the most time at home: children. As a result, the leading cause of death for children five and under is pneumonia resulting from lower respiratory disease.
By providing efficient, $40 Rocket Stoves, 52,000 of which Spencer and Co. have already delivered to those in need in Kenya alone, The Paradigm Project decrease the volume of firewood families need to survive. And in doing so, it's helping to slow deforestation, reduce CO2 emissions and save lives.
That's good news for the planet. Not so good for chickens.
• In many areas, women spend up to 30 hours gathering firewood each week.
• By cutting down trees and burning wood, the rural poor generate approximately 25% of CO2 emissions worldwide.
• 1.9 million women and children die every year from lower respiratory diseases associated with indoor cooking smoke.
Painting a brighter future for kids in need
Heal. Inspire. Empower.
For Matt D'Arrigo, founder and CEO of ARTS (A Reason to Survive), it's more than a catchy slogan. Each word represents part of the organization's mission to provide San Diego's impoverished youth with therapeutic arts programs, arts education and college and career readiness.
D'Arrigo started the organization 11 years ago, when he was 29 years old. Today, ARTS boasts a staff comprising more than two dozen paid full-time, part-time and student participants, and more than 100 volunteers.
At a time when state and federal funding for the arts is being slashed, D'Arrigo is aggressively expanding his operation to a new 20,000-square foot ARTS Center in National City, the poorest city in San Diego County.
"It's a huge need in the community," D'Arrigo says, "and gives us more access to the kids."
One of those kids, Inocente, is poised to make a major impact. She's been coming to ARTS since she was 12 and has learned how to channel the pain of homelessness into her art.
Inocente's story was recently chronicled by Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmakers Sean and Andrea Fine. Their documentary, "Inocente," which airs August 17 on MTV, has been racking up awards on the film festival circuit.
D'Arrigo couldn't be more thrilled. "It's all about bringing organizations together and making people aware of the importance of art in kid's lives," he says. "It takes nonprofits, donors, volunteers. Just get involved."
• 95% of the youth participating in ARTS come from minority, low-income households.
• ARTS provides activities for during the critical hours between school and home (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.), when at-risk kids are unsupervised and threfore most susceptible.
• ARTS' Van Go! program provides transportation for kids who would otherwise not be able to access the facility.
WELL, WELL, WELL
Breaking the flow of poverty with an outpouring of support
A society without access to clean water will always be poor.
"Lack of water means a lack of opportunity," says Jordan Mellul, general manager of Nika Water. "Water is the essential hub of the poverty cycle."
In many poor countries, women and children must walk great distances to retrieve clean water. The health implications may be obvious, but these unfortunate people face additional challenges, including lack of education due to time spent securing hydration.
That's where Nika Water comes in. It's a for-profit San Diego company that sells premium-bottled water and donates 100 percent of its profits to nonprofit partners.
"We don't make our money on fundraisers, donations or charitable giving," Mellul says. "We make our money from product sales almost all the way."
Whether it's a well or a water system, Nika finds a way to get water where it's needed most.
"For most of our projects," Mellul says, "it costs $20 per person to bring someone clean water...for the rest of their life."
For its latest endeavor, Água Pura Brasil, the price tag is even lower - about $11 per person. By teaming up up with ViX Swimwear (a company founded in San Diego by a Brazilian woman), Nika hopes to raise $50,000 to provide potable water for nearly 5,000 people living in the remote reaches of the Amazon River in Brazil.
"Water for life," Mellul says.
• Nika Water comes from Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River. It's filtered three times before it's treated with UV light to blast any remaining microbes.
• Nika Water uses only 100% recycled plastic for its bottles. By planting trees in South America, it offsets its carbon footprint and is now considered a carbon-free company.
• Approximately 20% of the world's population lacks access to clean water.
CLEAN WATER ACT
San Diego-based company Gobie — which invented the first fully portable, reusable, zero-waste, filtered water bottle — recently partnered with San Diego's own Nika Water to bring clean drinking water to third-world countries.
The two companies' co-branded bottle package will be sold with a year's supply of filters for around $60. And for every package sold, a $21 donation - an amount determined by dividing the cost of building and maintaining a well by the number of people who would use it - will provide a lifetime supply of drinking water to a third-world citizen.
Combating atrocities in Africa through video
There's viral. There's mega-viral. And then there's Invisible Children.
A year ago, few people had heard about Invisible Children. Today, thanks to the overwhelming success of the nonprofit's recent KONY 2012 campaign, few people haven't.
This is especially true in San Diego, where Invisible Children is headquartered, and one of its filmmakers was hospitalized after a much publicized incident in Pacific Beach last March.
The KONY 2012 campaign (the nonprofit's 13th such endeavor) has effectively shined a spotlight on Joseph Kony, a Ugandan guerrilla and head of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The 2006 film "Invisible Children" documents Kony's practice of abducting children and subscripting them into his armies to commit atrocities throughout central Africa.
"All of our films are about how individuals have been affected by the LRA," says Chris Carver, Invisible Children's chief operations officer. "We see it as our role to help mobilize the international community to support the end of this 26-year-long rebel movement. We've just been trying to drive that as much as possible over the last nine years."
Although the documentary was made in 2006, the KONY 2012 - an effort to raise awareness effecting Kony's capture in 2012 - has been very successful in renewed attention to the cause.
Invisible no more, Kony is finding it harder to hide.
• March 2012: the U.N. announced a unified force of 5,000 to pursue Kony and the LRA.
• April 2012: President Obama made a statement that the U.S. will continue its deployment of military advisers to the region.
• June 2012: 3.7 million people signed a pledge (supporting the removal of Kony) that was delivered to the UN.
BEATING YOUR CHEST
A local organization's fight against breast cancer
If "I Love Boobies" strikes you as something a kid would say, that's precisely the point.
The Keep A Breast Foundation's (KAB) playful slogan is meant to be accessible to young women, propelling them to take ownership of their bodies in the hope of eradicating breast cancer in future generations through prevention, detection and support.
For Shaney Jo Darden, founder of KAB, awareness is half the battle.
"A huge part of what we do is advocate for early detection," says Darden. "Cancer, if caught early, is not a death sentence, so be aware of your body and really love your boobies enough to check them out. We are out there making people aware, educating, inspiring, and turning that awareness into action.
There's a perception that breast cancer afflicts older women. In fact, the opposite is true - for women under the age of 40, the diseases claims more lives than any other kind of cancer.
This sobering statistic drove Darden to start KAB, launching a grassroots movement in Carlsbad to educate a population that doesn't realize it's at risk.
KAB enlists the help of celebrities to further its cause. Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani, Pink and many others have participated by having plaster castings made of their torsos. Once the plaster is dry, celebs, with the help of fine artists, decorate the castings and then sell them to raise money for KAB. Additional funding for the nonprofits initiatives comes from the sale of "I Love Boobies" bracelets and t-shirts.
• Iggy Pop, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo have all participated in Keep A Breast fundraisers.
• 100% of all proceeds from the sale of "I Love Boobies" bracelets and t-shirts go to Keep A Breast.
• Keep A Breast is the leading world's leading youth breast cancer organization.
SEAS THE DAY
To protect and surf
Stop me if you've heard this...
A bunch of surfers embark on a mission to protect their waves for the betterment of all mankind.
Sounds like b.s., right? Well, not exactly.
What started as the vision of surfers in Malibu back in 1984 has evolved into a nonprofit environmentally focused organization with more than 60,000 members and 100 chapters in 15 countries worldwide.
The Surfrider Foundation stays true to its grassroots by sticking to its two main platforms: the protection and enjoyment of oceans and beaches.
With 70 miles of coastline, it should come as no surprise that The Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter is extremely active.
One of Surfrider's 2012 initiatives that directly impacts San Diego is "No B.S." (No Border Sewage), which was formed to address the conservation and restoration of the Tijuana River Estuary, the mouth of the Tijuana River where excessive waste flows from Mexico into the ocean in Imperial Beach.
"People from San Diego Don't realize that this in our backyard," says San Diego chapter coordinator Haley Jane Haggerstone. "The river is full of trash. In one clean up we are filling a dumpster truck. It's not bags of garbage-it's wheelbarrows of garbage."
Border sewage affects all San Diegans. And that's no b.s.
• Surfrider Foundation has chapters as far away as Japan.
• Surfrider Foundation conducts essential water monitoring along beaches susceptible to polluted and contaminated.
• More than 500 Surfrider volunteers collected more than 2,600 pounds of debris from five San Diego beaches after this year's Fourth of July celebration.